(Oct. 28, 2014) -- A criminal justice scholar at The University of Texas at San Antonio wants to change how lawmakers and the public think about criminal justice in the United States.
For more than a decade, Michael Gilbert, an associate professor in the UTSA Department of Criminal Justice, has been championing community justice and restorative justice as better alternatives to the formal criminal justice systems currently in place. He believes that these distinct but complementary processes can be implemented large-scale, and in individual cases, to assist victims in the healing of societal harms in ways that the traditional justice system has not been able to help.
In a new paper published for European audiences in Restorative Justice: International Journal, Gilbert outlines the history, present and future of community justice and restorative justice, two radical, relations-driven approaches to attaining justice. The paper also describes the ways they could shape the U.S. criminal justice system over the next decade.
"Justice in the 21st century must do more than simply arrest and punish," said Gilbert. "It must prevent crime by understanding the impetus for crime. It must heal those harmed by crime in ways that strengthen and improve relationships and communities. It must meaningfully address community problems that create environments where street crimes flourish."
Restorative justice is victim-sensitive and focuses on repairing harms to victims and their communities through dialogue and restorative practices. Rather than sentence a non-violent offender with jail time, the offender and victims might work together to understand the true harms committed and rebuild broken relationships.
Community justice focuses on preventing crime by addressing local problems in ways that improve the quality of life of communities, particularly in high-crime areas. Law enforcement and justice agencies work with communities to identify key concerns, address underlying societal issues and ensure cultural sensitivity while providing assistance.
"Restorative justice and community justice operate across societal and policy spectrums to repair harms caused by incivilities, crime, injustice and inequality," he added. "These processes are about addressing problems through respect and mutuality between formal criminal justice systems and the communities they are supposed to help. It is a break in tradition that is sorely needed."
Gilbert is a published author and leading scholar in the field of restorative and community justice. He is the director of the UTSA Office of Community and Restorative Justice (OCRJ) housed in the College of Public Policy (COPP) Policy Studies Center. He also is executive director of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ), which he established in 2012.
Through the NACRJ and the OCRJ, Gilbert and his fellow restorative justice proponents have begun to create more meaningful conversations at the policy level about the benefits of eschewing traditional criminal justice methods for, in Gilbert's words, more constructive means of providing justice.
Earlier this year, the NACRJ sent the U.S. Sentencing Commission and the Criminal Justice Committee of the American Bar Association a policy statement advocating for the inclusion of restorative and community justice practices.
The UTSA Office of Community and Restorative Justice is dedicated to expanding the use of non-traditional forms of justice to create safe and livable communities. The office offers a wide range of training opportunities and consulting services related to community and restorative justice.
For more information, visit the UTSA Office of Community and Restorative Justice website.
The National Association of Community and Restorative Justice advocates for supportive public policies for restorative and community justice so that these practices can become mainstream. For more information, visit the NACRJ website.
Experience a fun, interactive week at UTSA as new students and their families take the first steps to becoming a Roadrunner.
Various locations, Main Campus and Downtown Campuses
Throughout the summer, UTSA offers more than 60 camps in science, engineering, architecture, sports, music, writing, language, culture and more.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
This event guides seniors and graduate students on the last phase of their college career and prepares recent alumni within one year of graduation for the world of work. Workshops and sessions will provide information on interview skills, job search strategies and networking.
Student Union, University Career Center, 2nd floor, Main Campus
The gala brings together UTSA alumni, friends and guests to celebrate the association's 41 years of scholarships, services, programs and the 2018 Alumni Award recipients.
Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa, 9800 Hyatt Resort Dr, San Antonio
As part of the citywide Kidcation and the ITC's free second Sunday, kids and families will have an opportunity to interact with cowboy docents, practice their skills at roping, learn about life on the cattle drives, make their own spurs, grab a seat for cowboy story time and work on cowboy-themed hands-on crafts.
UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, Hemisfair Campus
Dozens of fun and free events to welcome new and returning Roadrunners.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
The kickoff to Roadrunner Days, the UTSA community welcomes the thousands of students who move in to their new homes as they begin their journey at UTSA.
Laurel Village, Chaparral Village and Alvarez Hall, Main Campus
After a full day of moving, UTSA students and their families are invited to the party featuring food, swag, dancing and a special performance from the Spirit of San Antonio marching band.
Student Union Paseo, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
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